1. Let’s put this one on the table at the outset… I have a man-crush on Chris Paul. And I ain’t ashamed to say it.
2. I’m all types of confused after watching the Knicks a bunch recently. When they traded for Carmelo, every article I read about the trade said that they DID NOT TRADE Landry Fields. Yet, I’ve watched a whole bunch of Knicks games since the trade and haven’t seen him do a single thing. I mean, there’s a guy on the court wearing a Fields jersey, running around and sweating, but that guy doesn’t attack the rim, doesn’t crash the boards, and doesn’t even play good defense. It’s really quite baffling. It’s like something got into the guy’s head, and took away his mojo. Reminds me of whatever-it-is-that-happened-to-LeBron-in-the-middle-of-last-year’s-series-against-Boston. I hope Delonte West had nothing to do with this.
3. The evidence is in, and it’s quite clear: knees are overrated. Yup. DeJuan Blair has no ACL in either knee, yet is an effective player on the #1 seeded team out West. Brandon Roy has fallen from superstar status to a bench player because of crippling knee injuries, yet, there he was the other day, carrying his team to victory. And, all season, I’ve been listening to The Sports Guy on his podcast talk about how unimaginably big Chris Paul’s knee brace is when seen in person, and how Paul’s shelf-life as a star PG is limited. All CP3 has done is lead the overmatched Hornets to a 2-2 tie against the two-time defending champions.
4. Have I mentioned yet how amazing Chris Paul is?
5. One of the most misused terms is “role player,” and the problem with the term is used is clearly illustrated by this year’s New York Knicks. People refer to Carmelo, Amar’e, Chauncey, and a bunch of “role players.” But that’s inaccurate; there are hardly any true role players on the roster. I guess Douglas could be a player whose role is to come off the bench, harass the opponent’s PG, and knock down some 3’s. But when he’s asked to lead the offense at the PG – as he often is – he’s not in that role. What role has Landry Fields been filling? Early in the season, he did a bunch of things — including grab more rebounds per game than any other guard in the league. Recently, he hasn’t filled any role. There’s nobody whose role is to control the paint and the glass – this is theoretically what Turiaf does, but he doesn’t actually do it. Shawne Williams is a 6’9″ forward who attempts more than 3 three-point shots per game, and pulls down fewer than 4 rebounds per game. I guess that’s a “role,” but it’s not a role that winning teams bother to fill.
To make the point clearer, think of the great Bulls teams. Dennis Rodman was a role player — a phenomenal one, but a role player — whose job was to rebound and play defense. Steve Kerr couldn’t rebound or play defense, but that was fine because his role was to shoot. Bill Cartwright wasn’t much of an outside shooter, but that was fine because his role was to operate near the rim.
Basically, there’s a difference between guys who are role players and guys who just aren’t that good. Two superstars and the right mix of role players can be a very good team. Two superstars and a bunch of guys who just aren’t that good isn’t going very far.
Thinking about role players is interesting. Boston got it right when it found Rondo and Perkins to complement their 3 stars. On the other hand, it doesn’t seem that Miami has found what it needs. I think of role players as guys who are useful because they do one or two things really well, but don’t have enough other skills to become stars. The key is putting a role player in a position to succeed – a situation where he is asked to do what he is good at and not asked to do what he is not good at. The Pistons asked Ben Wallace to rebound a play D – that worked and Wallace was great. Team USA asked him to score – that didn’t and Wallace looked like a guy who would have had trouble in the NBDL. Now thinking about Landry Fields, I don’t see what his one or two things that he does really well are. He’s ok at everything, but great at nothing. I think he was just lucky to fall into a situation on pre-Carmelo Knicks where his hustle and team play were valued and his skills were secondary. Carmelo changed the vibe on the Knicks. Team play isn’t the priority anymore, the individual is what’s valued now. The Knicks are about getting Carmelo his shots and A’mare his, and then worrying about the team after that. In this new environment, where Fields best skills are no longer valued, he’s lost and thus no longer a useful role player. If Fields can find a team that needs a hustle player or “glue” guy, he may still make it in the NBA.
Good stuff, Novak. I generally agree with you, up to your comment that, on the current Knicks “team play isn’t the priority, the individual is what’s valued now.” I don’t think we can test that statement until we see what the Knicks look like after surrounding Carmelo and Amar’e with the right kinds of role players (e.g. a center who rebounds and blocks shots on D, and operates down low on offense, a shooting guard who can shoot, and a healthy point guard who creates good shots for his ‘mates).